School can be a very scary place. In my day you had to deal with teachers throwing board cleaners at you, a cross country run that went very close to the army’s shooting range and the horror that was Friday’s lunchtime food choice – the ‘Dinner Ladies Surprise’.
In The Coma: Recut, the horror of school is much worse than my petty experiences, as you are dragged into a nightmare world, where everything is contorted and your favourite teacher is hunting you down with an axe.
Welcome back to school.
This is a remastered version of indie cult classic The Coma: Cutting Class, that gamers have been enjoying on PC. Now though, The Coma has been rebalanced and ‘recut’ with new and updated animations, mechanics, cut scenes and art. Inspired by the real-world plight of Korea’s overworked high school students, you play as Youngho, a hapless Korean student who arrives at school ready for his exams. He wanders around and visits a few friends, meets a mysterious female student and has a crush on a female teacher. After drifting to sleep during his final exam, he wakes to find himself trapped in a twisted version of his school, Sehwa High. And he’s not alone. Relentlessly pursued by a teacher turned creature from hell, Youngho must evade his hunter while desperately searching for a way to escape the dread-filled corridors and classrooms.
The gameplay is very simple to grasp, and runs like a 2D version of a point and click adventure game. You can move left and right, and enter doorways and portals. You can pick things up, save your progress at blackboards and collect items for your inventory. There are quests to complete, but these mostly consist of you trying to escape from the school; by grabbing a key, a password, or by finding a person in order to progress. You have a map at your disposal, which clearly marks where you need to go and an inventory backpack that holds a limited number of items. You also have access to a flashlight, so you can see in the dimly lit corridors of the school that you are venturing around. But be warned – use the flashlight carefully because the monster lurking around will find you fast.
Now the monster in question is a demon version of your favourite schoolteacher, who is now wielding an axe and chasing you down the corridors. If she is near, the music ramps up in tension, the screen starts to flicker and you know you only have a few moments to make a couple of life changing decisions. You can just blindly run, which in the later stages is all I seemed to do. You only have limited stamina if you do this, unless you top it up with purchased snacks in your inventory. The second choice is to hide in the shadows and hope she doesn’t see you, or hide in a cupboard or toilet cubicle waiting nervously for her to pass you unseen. You can also distract her by sound trickery or by rolling past her. You have a limited number of health bars and stamina, but items can be bought or found on your journey to help with that problem.
The gameplay – and the game itself – is one of the most unusual, original titles I’ve ever played. The story, style, tone and mechanics are completely fresh and exciting in their execution. The monster attack, the first time it happens, is frightening, especially with the music build, but very quickly can become a bit annoying and frankly, quite dull. However the story makes up for the survival part, with some really great characters and twists. The whole journey is entertaining, even though there is a lot of hiding in shadows and creeping around in the 2D corridors.
The visual look the developers of The Coma: Recut are employing is a hand-illustrated manhwa art style that really pings out from the screen. It’s a really cool tone, and some of the cut scenes are stylish and beautifully drawn. The actual character movement is deliberately a series of animated actions, rather than a full fluid motion we are used to. This however is very effective and works well in the overall context. The sound design is great, with it being the main device of horror in the game. The little effects as you walk around in the darkness work brilliantly, but it’s a massive shame we don’t have any voice-over to go with it.
Overall I had a good time with The Coma: Recut. The running and hiding from the creature does get a bit tiresome, but the originality of the story, gameplay and visuals make up for the tiring survival element I had to endure. There’s a nice chunk of gameplay to be had here for a game of this size and price, and there are plenty of notes, secrets and achievements to pick up along the way.
Now go on – get back to school.